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Bell finds solace from relegation worries

Birmingham 153 for 2 (Bell 75*, Hain 47) beat Worcestershire 152 for 9 (Cox 43, Whiteley 40, Clarke 3-20) by eight wickets
Scorecard

Ian Bell returned after injury with a 39-ball half century to lead Birmingham Bears to a crushing eight-wicket victory over local rivals Worcestershire Rapids in their opening NatWest T20 Blast encounter at a packed New Road.

Bell had missed Warwickshire's one-wicket defeat by Middlesex in the County Championship with tendonitis in an elbow - a setback which leaves them staring relegation in the face in the four-day competition.

But it was a different story in the short format of the game as captain Bell and fellow opener Sam Hain put on 98 in 12 overs to ensure their side made light work of a modest 153 target.

Bell ended unbeaten on 75 from 55 balls with eight fours and one six while Hain contributed 47 as the Bears won with one over to spare.

The veteran bowling duo of Rikki Clarke and Jeetan Patel were largely responsible for the Rapids being restricted to a modest 152 for nine with combined figures of five for 38 from their eight overs.

Then the Bell-Hain partnership ensured the Bears lifted the Norman Gifford Trophy - played for by the two counties in the T20 Blast - for the first time.

The Rapids were put into bat and were pushed onto the back foot by a fine opening spell from Rikki Clarke.

The 35-year-old accounted for Joe Clarke - the replacement at the top of the order for Tom Kohler-Cadmore - who holed out to mid on for 13.

Daryl Mitchell (18) then pulled Rikki Clarke into the hands of deep square leg and Brett D'Oliveira (four) was trapped lbw by the same bowler, who finished with excellent figures of three for 20 off his four overs.

Olly Stone bowled with good pace on his debut for Birmingham - 13 months after suffering a knee ligament injury celebrating the wicket of Rapids batsman Moeen Ali at Wantage Road when a Northamptonshire player.

But it was another golden oldie in spinner Patel who kept Worcestershire in check during the middle overs of the innings.

Worcestershire skipper Joe Leach (nine) was trapped lbw by the 37-year-old New Zealander who then bowled his compatriot Mitchell Santner (12).

Only when Ben Cox and Ross Whiteley joined forces was there any meaningful acceleration from the home side.

They plundered 78 in seven overs before Cox went for a reverse scoop and perished at short third man off Colin de Grandhomme, having scored 43 off 27 balls.

Worcestershire needed early wickets to put their local rivals under any pressure but Hain and Bell were quickly into their stride.

Hain lofted John Hastings for a straight six and Bell drove Joe Leach for successive boundaries.

The opening six-over powerplay yielded 52 runs and only spinner Santner, at the start of his second spell at New Road, was able to exercise much restraint.

It needed a mix-up to end the partnership on 98 in the 12th over with Hain run out as he tried to reclaim his ground off the bowling of Mitchell.

William Porterfield (five) was stumped by Cox off Mitchell after giving the medium pacer the charge, but that proved to be the only wicket the home bowlers picked up.

Bell went to his fifty with seven boundaries and survived a difficult caught and bowled chance on 58 against Hastings before seeing his side to the winning post.